Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted August 27, 2015
For as long as most younger Americans can recall, the United States has been barred from exporting crude oil – a self-inflicted sanction that’s at odds with our historical role as a global leader in both free trade and oil production. For them, that’s the way it has always been – the U.S. unilaterally excluding itself from the world’s most important energy marketplace.
Yet, history, economics and security imperatives all argue that it shouldn’t stay that way. Rather, U.S. oil exports policy should be restored to its former posture, to realign policy with this reality: America’s shale energy revolution, the most recent in a series of world-changing energy events, affords the U.S. a great opportunity, and that the U.S. should pursue every means possible to harness that revolution’s benefits – including resuming the export of domestic crude.
To start, policymakers must acknowledge a couple of things: First, that maintaining the oil export ban that was imposed after the 1973 embargo is hurting U.S. competitiveness in the global economy and limiting the benefits that could and should accrue to an energy superpower.
Posted August 24, 2015
Two items from the weekend help sharpen the focus a strategic choice before Americans as they look to the future: Which energy path will we take?
One path leads to increased domestic energy development. It’s typified by safe and responsible oil and natural gas production that harnesses America’s energy wealth to create jobs, grow the economy and make the U.S. more secure in the world.
Another path likely would lead to very little of the above. It’s characterized by unnecessary regulation and self-limiting policies that hinder or block domestic development. America would be less secure, economically and in the world, and our allies, too.
The two paths, two very different futures – for American energy and America.
Posted August 17, 2015
Late last week the Obama administration gave the go-ahead for limited domestic crude oil exports to Mexico, a positive move on oil exports – yet one that immediately underscores this question: Why stop there?
According to the Associated Press, license applications approved by the Commerce Department allow the exchange of similar amounts of U.S. and Mexican crude, a swap. The U.S. would send an as-yet unspecified amount of light crude to Mexico in exchange for heavier Mexican crude. AP:
While the Commerce Department simultaneously rejected other applications for crude exports that violated the ban, the move to allow trading with Mexico marked a significant shift and an additional sign that the Obama administration may be open to loosening the export ban. Exchanges of oil are one of a handful of exemptions permitted under the export ban put in place by Congress.
Two things: First, the arrangement with Mexico, while limited in scope, nonetheless is the administration affirming the inherent benefits of trade. The light crude in the deal represents some of the domestic oil that’s accumulating and trading at a discount to global prices, unable to reach the world market because it’s shut in by an outdated, anti-competitive oil exports ban. Second, the U.S. needs to go further.
Posted August 14, 2015
We’ve put up a number of posts recently that argue for lifting the United States’ decades-old ban on exporting domestic crude oil – citing sound economic, trade and security reasons. Underlying them all is this: As an energy superpower, America will see more benefits here at home, be more secure and help make the world safer if U.S. crude is allowed to trade freely in the global marketplace.
Now, there is a compelling, market reason for urgency in ending the export ban – a self-sanctioning relic of the 1970s that hinders U.S. global competitiveness while impeding domestic energy development and economic growth. That would be the impacts on global crude markets if/when Iran resumes exporting oil under the proposed nuclear agreement the White House is advancing.
Posted August 12, 2015
Add MIT professor and former CIA director John Deutch to the bipartisan list of those calling for an end to the ban on U.S. crude oil exports.
Deutch, a National Petroleum Council member who served in a number of posts during the Carter, Clinton and Obama administrations, argues in the Wall Street Journal that exporting domestic crude would grow U.S. jobs and increase American influence in world oil markets. Deutch writes:
The bottom line is that the U.S. has the potential to export large amounts of oil and refined products.
Posted August 11, 2015
The U.S. Commerce Department’s recent mid-year trade report illustrates how surging domestic oil and natural gas production is helping our economy – and strongly suggests what increased domestic output could do if U.S. crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) had unhindered access to global markets.
According to Commerce, the U.S. trade deficit among petroleum and petroleum products fell 56.1 percent the first six months of this year compared to the first six months of 2014 (exhibit 9). That growth helped hold the total U.S. year-over-year trade balance steady, even as the trade deficit in non-petroleum products increased 23.1 percent. API Chief Economist John Felmy:
“Despite a very competitive global market, the U.S. energy revolution continues to push our trade balance in a positive direction. Oil imports remain on the decline, and strong exports of petroleum and refined products are creating new opportunities for America to bring wealth and jobs back to U.S. shores.”
For that trend to continue, though, the United States must pursue energy trading opportunities with the same vigor it pursues trade in other areas. A 1970s-era ban on crude oil exports should be lifted, and LNG export projects should be approved by the government so that domestic producers have every chance to access global markets.
Posted August 4, 2015
Something we hear frequently (and too often from people who should know better), is that as long as the United States is an oil importer it shouldn’t export domestic crude. It sounds logical and certainly makes for a good headline. But the idea ignores reality and sound economic analysis.
A quick skim of government data on U.S. trade shows that goods imported into the United States are often goods that also are exported from the United States. The fact is that oil is traded globally, and the ebbs and flows of global supply affect us here in the U.S. Bruce Everett, who teaches oil market economics at Tufts University, explained in a recent article for Politico:
… it’s certainly true that the US will still require imported oil for the foreseeable future to meet our needs. But the implication here is that exporting US crude oil would increase our import needs and therefore undermine national security. And that’s not how the oil market works. The US has an open economy, and American consumers pay world prices for oil – just as they do for wheat, corn, copper, gold and other internationally traded commodities. Crude oil is sold in a single, integrated global market. If the world oil price spikes, the US will suffer, along with everyone else, to the extent we rely on the global market for imports. But exporting some domestically produced oil would not affect this equation.
Energy isolationism isn’t in the United States’ best interest – economically or from a security standpoint. While some argue that shutting in U.S. crude oil is better for America, that kind of faulty thinking ignores the way free markets work – and can work to America’s benefit if we lift the ban on exporting domestic crude.
Posted July 30, 2015
We’ve stressed the economic benefits of lifting the ban on U.S. crude oil exports – GDP growth, job creation and consumer savings – because they’re considerable and would affect virtually every American in a positive way. No less important are the benefits for American security and foreign policy from letting U.S. crude trade freely in the global marketplace. API President and CEO Jack Gerard:
“Experts across the academic and political spectrum agree that American exports would spur greater U.S. oil production, put more oil on the world market, and reduce the power that foreign suppliers have over our allies. Our ability to strengthen the global energy market against future disruptions will shape events around the globe, adding a key tool to America’s diplomatic arsenal.”
Posted July 29, 2015
The current crude oil export debate basically is about global competition – and whether the United States will stop sanctioning itself and let an American commodity trade freely on the global market.
An irony – we’ll call it the “Iran Irony” – underscores the anti-competitive nature of our outdated ban on oil exports and the strategic shortsightedness of maintaining it.
The “Iran Irony” is this: While the U.S. advances a nuclear deal that would let Iran reemerge as a major oil supplier on the global market – to Iran’s economic and competitive gain – the United States denies itself similar benefits by banning its own crude exports. This is hurting America’s global competitiveness, diminishing the potential positive impacts of America’s rise as an energy superpower.
Posted July 14, 2015
A potential nuclear deal with Iran that would permit the Iranians to resume exporting crude oil to global markets – short-term and long-term – underscores questions about our own oil export policies. Here are two: What are the implications of Iranian crude oil exports for U.S. production? And: When will our government lift de facto sanctions against the export of U.S. oil?
Bloomberg reports that Iran’s oil minister says the country can increase exports by 500,000 barrels a day as soon as economic sanctions are lifted, then an additional 500,000 barrels a day in the following six months. Richard Nephew of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy is less optimistic about that kind of ramp-up. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has said Iran could reach 700,000 barrels per day by the end of 2016.
The point is, if there’s a nuclear deal that lifts economic sanctions against Iran, Iranian oil will be getting to market.